Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Bible Tell Me Who - Lessons From Amazing People of the Bible by Christopher D. Hudson

Recommendation: **** (4-stars)

This collection of 90 Bible stories introduces your young child to Bible characters from the Old and New Testament. Each story is written simply and beautifully illustrated. The stories give a small glimpse into the lives of these characters and asks what we can learn from them.

Positives: I loved that the book included characters we can learn positive and negative lessons from. With so many stories included it also introduces children to "lesser known" characters like Ezra, Hosea and Caiaphas. I was also pleased with the "What Can We Learn" section following each story. Most of these focus on lessons we can learn about God and His character as well as applicable thoughts on how we are to respond to our sin, God's law and other people.

Negatives: None

Talking Points: The author gives you a great lead-in for discussion with your child! Use his thoughts on what there is to learn from each character to talk with your child about our great God and Savior. For older children, ask them what they can learn before reading this section! The author is careful to include the gospel throughout the book. Use these opportunities to continue to foster a continual "gospel conversation" with your young children. Remember, God's Word is an effective sword - even in the life of young kids! (2 Timothy 3:16, Heb. 4:12, Eph. 6:17). Use this book as a great tool to introduce Bible characters. Keep your kids in the Scriptures as well and enjoy watching them grow and change.

Age Level: 2-5 years of age

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for this review.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

The Lightening Thief by Rick Riordan

Recommendation:  **** (4 stars)

Percy Jackson has not lasted long in any of the “special” schools he has attended, as trouble always finds him. This 6th grader discovers that he is a half-blood, the son of his human mother and a Greek god. There are more of his kind, and he is destined to be a hero. His friends Grover and Annabeth, a satyr (goat-man) and another half-blood, help him to successfully complete his first quest. He even gets to meet his father, Poseidon, god of the sea. Percy’s supernatural ability to manipulate water and survive beneath its surface, along with his courage and determination, make him a force to be reckoned with.

Positives: This book is well written with an attention-keeping pace of one event flowing to the next. The characters are well developed, giving the reader enough insight and background into why they are who they are. It was an enjoyable read that I looked forward to picking up again each time. Although my 5th grader had already read this and the remainder of the series, he and I went through it together as a fun way to spend time together. While the storyline deals with the intertwined human world and the world of the Greek gods and goddesses, there is an acknowledgement that “God” is a completely different matter altogether.

Negatives: Some violence (when Percy fights and prevails over the minotaur); small section with questionable content due to its prophetic nature (consulting the Oracle for Percy’s destiny).

Talking points: Aside from acknowledging that this is fiction, there are worthy character qualities that can be highlighted and encouraged. Percy’s friendships with Grover and Annabeth are good displays of loyalty, dependability, and encouraging personal growth. The three increase in their appreciation for one another, and even challenge each other to be stretched in their strengths and weaknesses. As they face a variety of foes, their consistent concern for one another is admirable. “A friend loves at all times.” (Prov. 17:17) As the half-bloods inherit supernatural powers from their god- or goddess-parents, so do we inherit traits from our biological parents. Discuss the unique ways that God has made each person according to His design and will, and how this is for His glory. But also that He is the ultimately sovereign power who watches over, protects, guides and helps us. (Psalm 139, Hebrews 4:14-16) As Christ put on flesh and walked the earth as a God-man, He understands all of our weaknesses and we can call upon our Father in the name of Christ at any time for any reason and He will hear and answer our prayers according to His will. (Psalm 37:4, Eph. 6:18) As we put on the ‘armor of God’, He equips us with everything we need for life and godliness, and to stand against the enemy (Eph. 6:10-17, 2 Pet. 1:3).

Reviewer’s further note: Our family enjoyed the audio version of another Riordan book while on vacation. This one was The Lost Hero, which is subsequent, but several books removed from, The Lightning Thief. My red flags were popping up all over, as the Oracle takes on a much larger role in The Lost Hero, to the point that she was essentially demon-possessed, in my opinion. Another being “takes over” her essence, and even her appearance is changed, along with other physical elements in the room changing. I could not get past the power and importance of this character’s part in the story. It was very much something I knew I must discuss with my 11- and 8-yr old children later on, and did. Because of this increased element, I strongly encourage parents to preview, discuss, and proceed with caution in the reading of this book series. Riordan’s writing style continued to be very entertaining with excellent character development, but in the aspect mentioned above, discernment is required. (Heb. 5:14)


Age level: 10 years and up

Thursday, June 13, 2013

My Very First Noah's Ark Playtime by Lois Rock

Recommendation: ***

This sticker and activity book bases it's contents on the story of Noah and the Ark. There are a lot of stickers, a short board game, a recipe to try and a counting activity as well as a very abbreviated version of the story.

Positives: This would be a great book to purchase for an upcoming road trip.  The amount of stickers and activities would keep kids occupied for quite awhile.

Negatives: I wasn't thrilled with the Bible story account given. It focuses more on the animals and not on showing us God's character that we learn about through this story.  There was no reference to the grace and mercy shown to Noah or God's faithfulness and goodness. It also fails to mention the reason of the flood and God's judgment of sin. The only other downside is that once the stickers are all used, there aren't a lot of other activities to keep using the book. However, still a nice book to occupy kids for a time.

Talking Points: As your child does the activities and you read to them, be sure and use Scripture (Genesis 6-9) to teach your children about the character of God. This story teaches us so much about our own sinful hearts, God's holiness and judgment of sin, and the riches of his grace that he granted Noah and his family and us today.

Age Level: 4-6 years of age.

I received a free copy of this book from Kregel Publishing in exchange for this book.


Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Gift Of A Servant by Tamara Amos

Recommendation: * (1-star)

It seems a bit unusual to be reviewing a Christmas story in May, but this book came to my mailbox with high recommendations from many sources.  The story is of a father who is unhappy with the current state of Christmas celebrations. He has decided that Santa Claus is to blame for the commercialized blizzard that Christmas has become. So, he waits up on Christmas Eve to speak with Santa and let him know how upset and disappointed he is with Christmas.  Santa then begins to tell him of the love he displays for children and compares himself to Christ.

Positives: I only found one positive moment in this book.  After Santa and the disgruntled father had talked, the father realizes that Santa is not to blame, but that it is "our sin which let in the materialism of our day." I was thankful that he voiced this realization.

Negatives: When I first read this book I was very confused. I did not understand what the purpose of the story was and why the author wrote a book about both Santa Claus and Jesus Christ. I don't think it is a good idea to write a book for children that combines Santa Claus (fantasy) and Jesus (truth) and blurs the lines between these two very different characters. How is a young child to understand, when in the story Santa Claus responds to Jesus, as He is on the cross? Included in the story are also some Catholic beliefs such as when Santa Claus (Saint Nicholas) is referred to as holy (several times) and receives a halo. I am guessing that the author was trying to make a stronger connection, for kids, between our present day Santa and the man St. Nicholas.

Talking Points: We are often asked if we "do the Santa thing." This is a question that all Christian families should carefully and prayerfully think through.  I don't think it is a sin to tell your kids about Santa, but we need to be careful to help our kids separate fantasy and truth. God has given us creative minds to imagine and fantasize with, but He has also provided us with a source of truth, the Bible, to ground our thoughts in (John 17:17). Read and study and memorize Psalm 119 together. This Psalm continually reminds us that God's Word is truth and that is what we and our kids need.

Age Level: 3-7 years of age

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for this review.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Between Heaven and Earth by Eric Walters

Recommendation: **** (4 stars)

The story unfolds as DJ (the eldest) and his cousins learn about the interesting clause their grandfather has put in his will. All seven grandsons have been given a task to complete, unfinished business that their grandfathers requests of them from beyond the grave. DJ's task is to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro and scatter his grandfathers ashes at the top.  As the eldest grandson he is proud his grandfather has chosen this task for him and he is very confident that he will complete it without any problems.  After all, he is young and fit and determined, what could stop him? Fortunately for young DJ his grandfather knew this would be the perfect task to teach him some life lessons, the hard way. This story provides a bit of everything - danger, adventure, relational and personal challenges and connects with the reader on an emotional level as well. I'll admit it, I cried at the end!  But that's just me....my boys just thought it was very cool.

Positives: The characters in this story were fabulous!  I so enjoyed reading it as the relationships developed and intentions were revealed.  I also enjoyed the personal battles that DJ struggled through as his character struggled to complete his grandfather's request and become a man.

Negatives: None

Talking Points: DJ's fierce independence really struck me in this story and made me think about myself and my kids. We often hear in parenting circles that we want our kids to grow up to be independent. While there is some truth to that, I find myself more and more trying to teach my kids to be dependent.  The independent attitude comes much more naturally - who hasn't heard a toddler say "I do it!" And while I don't want my kids to be lazy, I want them to know that they need help. The gospel is all about how badly we need help. Read Titus 3:3-7.  Verse 5 tells us, "He saved us..."  Plain and simple, it was the goodness and lovingkindness of God that brought us salvation - not anything we had or have or could ever do.  We need Christ to help us. And this goes beyond salvation to our everyday walk with Christ - we need help! John 14 and 15 refer to the Holy Spirit as our Helper. We can never exhibit the fruits of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23) without the help of the Holy Spirit. This lesson also spreads to the church.  The church is called to help one another - to use the spiritual gifts we are given to build up the body of Christ - all to the glory of God (Eph. 4:11-16)! When someone in the body has a need, we are to help fulfill that need! Talk to your kids about how DJ learned that he needed help to climb the mountain and that climbing together was important and teach them to swallow their pride and ask for help!  And teach them to be helpers, willing to fulfill a need when others need help.

Age Level: 10 years of age and up

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The Boy And The Ocean by Max Lucado

Recommendation: *** (3 stars)

A young boy views the ocean, the mountains and the nighttime sky and learns from his parents how these elements of creation reflect God's love. He learns that God's love is special, it is always there.

Positives: This story uses a Biblical concept to create a touching story. The Bible tells us that creation teaches us about God and his character and this book focuses on teaching children about God's unending love. Just like we can't see the end of the ocean, we can never experience the end of God's love. The illustrations are simply amazing!

Negatives: I would have liked to see the story use Jesus as an expression of God's love as well. Without Jesus, there is not a complete gospel presentation in this book.

Talking Points: Scripture tells us that creation reflects God's character (Psalm 19:1, Rom. 1:18-20). Talk with your child about what they see in creation that points them to The Creator (i.e. seeing God's faithfulness in the patterns of morning and evening or the seasons). A great resource here is to use hymns. Many hymns express the character of God through creation. A few to start with would be "The Love of God" and "Great Is Thy Faithfulness." Since we never want to miss a gospel opportunity, also talk to your kids about Jesus being the ultimate expression of God's love toward us. John 3:16 tells us the reason God sent His Son! God loves the people He created, but because of our sin He is separated from us. Through Jesus coming to earth and living a sinless life we can now be forgiven and have a relationship with God. God loves us enough to continually move toward us when we are continually running from Him.

Age Level: 2-7 years of age

I received a free copy of this book from Crossway Publishers in exchange for this review.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Seven The Series

My boys and I are going to read this new series that came out last fall. It is a unique and fun concept for a series and I am excited to try this new venture with them! The series consists of 7 different books, each written by a different author. Each of the books was released on the same day last fall and there is no particular order to read them in. The series is based around the stories of 7 grandsons who all receive an adventure to complete from their grandfather in his will. Each book is an independent story, but they are all loosely connected through their grandfather as well. HERE is where you can learn more about the series and the authors.

My boys are excited to jump into this series, though my oldest son is not at all comfortable with the concept of not reading them in a particular order (such a firstborn!). My second born could not be more thrilled though as he usually has to wait for his brother to finish the first book in a series before he can start, this way he can read whatever he pleases!

Look for my reviews on each book in the coming weeks. Some of these books are topping the best seller lists in Canada, so I can't wait to get started!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Rock and Roll Literacy with Sigmund Brouwer

My kids with Mr. Brouwer
 Today's post will be a bit unusual, but when you come across something or someone who profoundly impacts you AND your kids AND your kids friends...well, I just have to tell you about it. And while it's not a book review, it is a review of sorts, and I believe fits right in with our desire to help moms (specifically) point their kids to the gospel through the books they read. When you see a life that reflects Christ, you want your kids to be influenced by it in whatever way they can.

This week our school (Burton Elementary) had the privilege of hosting author Sigmund Brouwer. He came to  help us celebrate Right to Read Month and our Young Authors program. I'm not sure that I can even express how impressed our entire school was with Mr. Brouwer, his presentation, and his generous character.  The kids absolutely adored him and the teachers and administration were thrilled with his enthusiasm and genuine passion for kids, reading and writing.

Our Kindergartners listening and laughing

His presentation for students is called "Rock and Roll Literacy." For an entire hour he held the attention of 500 students (K-6th) through song and story. The kids had a great time and came away believing in the power of stories and in their ability to write stories that will make an emotional connection with others. Last night I was talking with one of our third grade students and he pulled out a brand new notebook that he had gotten and had already filled several pages with ideas for his next story. He was so excited to show me and see my reaction to some of his ideas! It was amazing!

Mr. Brouwer also came back that evening and spoke to our students and their parents again, encouraging parents to listen to the stories their children tell. Parents told me that their kids were begging to come back in the evening to hear Mr. Brouwer because they so enjoyed his assembly that afternoon. During the evening we also celebrated our Young Authors program. Each student displayed their own published work for the entire school to read and celebrate. Mr. Brouwer spent the rest of the evening signing books and taking pictures with students. He signed for everyone who asked!

Our PTO was able to purchase one of Mr. Brouwer's books for each student, so the next morning he came back to our school and went around to every classroom to personally hand out each book.  Oh yeah, and he also did a personalized autograph for each book! It was like Christmas morning! Our students were so excited to receive a BOOK!! The entire school was energized by his visit.

As I said earlier, we were very impressed by Mr. Brouwer's generosity. How refreshing to see a professing believer display Christ-likeness and he was able to do it in a public school!!
I would highly encourage you to find a way to bring Mr. Brouwer to your school. Here is a man who is able to go into hundreds of public schools each year and be a servant of Christ.  He views his "job" as an opportunity for ministry and he is excellent at what he does! You will NOT be disappointed!

If you are interested in finding out more about his school program you can click HERE. If you've never heard of Sigmund Brouwer (gasp!) or read one of his books (double gasp!) you can download 3 free e-books HERE.
For those who want to see our regular format this is what I would say:

Recommendation: ********** (10-stars!!) Seriously, 5 stars just isn't enough

Positives: EVERYTHING

Negatives: NOTHING

Talking Points: Your child will be inspired in so many ways by Mr. Brouwer's words and character!

If you have any questions or want more information, please send an email!
I think this was when he was telling the booger story,
or was it the one about drinking toilet water?!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Fortress of Mist by Sigmund Brouwer

Recommendation: ****

In the second book of the Merlin's Immortals Series Brouwer once again masterfully weaves a story that kept me on reading much to late into the night for this mom! Thomas has fulfilled part of the destiny he was born too, but he is discovering that there is much more yet to discover and unfold. He must tread carefully as he is unsure who to trust or where to turn to for guidance. As a young Lord of his castle he is discovering secrets that have been uncovered for ages. In his quest for truth Thomas must decide whom he will serve, but he is learning that this decision may not be based on facts, but faith.

Positives: This story was positively riveting! The first book I struggled at the beginning, but in this sequel I was hooked from the start. The plot was very intriguing (I don't want to spoil it for you!) and had plenty of twists and turns that were unexpected. Boys in particular will love the battle/action scenes.  I love the idea of faith that the author is bringing out. Thomas must make decisions based on fact and faith. He may not be given all the answers he seeks, and this is where his faith must come in. The inner conflict of Thomas is a great illustration of a young Christian's road to faith in Christ.

Negatives: None

Talking Points: Talk to your kids about faith. Their own faith and yours! If you look up "faith" in a Bible dictionary it talks about it being a (1) firm conviction (2) a personal surrender (to God) and (3) a conduct inspired by such surrender.  It says that faith stands in contrast to belief which is a purely natural exercise. Help your kids understand that faith is a gift from God (Eph. 2:8) that will grow as it feeds on God's Word (Rom. 10:17). Faith is supernatural! Even when we don't have all the answers we can have faith. Demonstrate this to your children! Can we understand everything about who God is? No! He is God! If we could completely understand Him, he would not be worthy of our worship! Just as Thomas is beginning to have to make decisions when he doesn't have all the answers, in the same manner we exercise our faith in Christ. Read Hebrews 11 with your kids so they can hear of the great faith exercised by those who have walked before them. But don't stop there! Read Hebrews 12 to remind them that the object of our faith is Jesus Christ!

Age Level: 10 years of age and up

I received a free copy of this book from WaterBrook Multnomah in exchange for this review.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Chronicles Of The Broken Book II by Amanda Washington

Recommendation: ** (2 1/2 Stars)

This book details the sometimes sad and difficult reality of inner city teenage life.  By using a myriad of characters the author draws us into a detailed web of stories that are individual and yet connected. As these teens struggle with friendships, dating, drugs, death, divorce, sickness and many other things we see the pain and reality of sin weighing heavily upon their lives.

Positives: This is not a story for the faint of heart. I'll admit I did not care for the book initially, but after reading where the author took her inspiration from I had a better understanding and appreciation for this story. The author says she wants to portray life as it is - broken and messy and help readers understand that we are never beyond God's grace. I think she has done a good job of portraying the effects of sin in the lives of her characters. I hope in the books to follow we will see more of the gospel of grace that she says she wants to portray.

Negatives: I was at a disadvantage because I have not read the first book in this series. It took me quite a while to figure out the characters and keep them straight. There are a lot of characters and the author jumps between their stories frequently so it was difficult at first.

I was confused as to why the character Marcus has this "special ability" where he intensely feels the emotions of others. In a story that seemed mostly realistic this was a puzzle to me. I'm not sure why this element is necessary in the story and it seemed out of place to me.

I am hopeful that in the sequel the gospel will be presented. Though these kids are loosely affiliated with a church group there is no mention of the gospel, no one is calling them to repentance. In the midst of their pain and suffering, no one is pointing them to the only source of Hope and Joy - Jesus Christ. Maybe in future books we will see the church rise up and share the gospel with these kids.

Talking Points: Will our kids encounter hardship and pain like these kids  endure? Certainly. We live in sin-filled world and they will encounter sin and pain in their own life and the lives of friends. The question is, do they know where to turn when hardship comes? Will they boldly proclaim the gospel to their friends? Will they call those friends who claim to know Christ to repentance? The Gospel is the only answer to sin and the effects of sin we endure here on earth. Talk to your child about the most loving message they can share with their friends in times of hardship and pain - the message that Jesus Christ has paid the penalty for their sin by dying on the cross. Help your kids to understand the gospel well enough that they can effectively share it with their friends - and pray together for boldness when the opportunities arise! Here is a simple summary of the gospel with Scriptures. God - He is Holy (Rev. 4:8, Is. 6:1-5); He is Creator (Gen. 1:1, John 1:1); He is Loving (Ex. 334:6, I John 4:10); Man - Man is created by God (Gen. 1:27); Man is Sinful (Rom. 3:23, Is. 53:6); Man is separated from God and headed to death (Is. 59:2, Col. 1:21, Rom. 6:23); Jesus Christ - Jesus is God in the Flesh (Luke 22:70, John 1:1-2); Jesus lived a sinless life (2 Cor. 5:21, I Pet. 2:22); Jesus Reconciles us to God (2 Cor. 5:18-19); Jesus Died in our Place (Rom. 5:8) Jesus Rose from the dead (Acts 17:31) Jesus is the Way to Eternal Life (John 3:16, John 5:24); Response - Repent (Acts. 2:38, Acts 17:30); Believe (John 3:18, John 5:24).

Age Level: 14 years of age and up

I received a free copy of this book through the BookCrash Program in exchange for this review.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

My ABC Bible Verses from the Psalms by Susan Hunt and Richie Hunt

Recommendation: ***** (5-star)

On this adventure through the Psalms, with two of my favorite authors, your child will learn about our great God and why He is worthy of our worship and praise. On each page a verse from the Psalms is given to represent a letter of the alphabet. The verse is accompanied by a short story about Bill, Missy and their family that teaches and illustrates the verse. Your child will love the beautiful illustrations as well as the adventures of Missy and Bill. The verses are simple enough for your child to memorize and if they memorize all the verses presented they will have Psalm 100 hidden in their hearts!

Positives: Not only is this book beautifully illustrated, it serves a greater purpose of teaching kids about God. Families with young children will love to use this for a daily devotional and work on memorizing the verses. I love how at the end of each story it provides another Bible reference to reiterate the point of the story. I also love the "Let's Talk" and "Let's Pray" sections highlighted at the end of the story. What a great opportunity to further discuss with your child the meaning of the Scripture and help them apply it to their heart. Please be sure to read the letter from the authors at the beginning of the book, it will help you understand their purposes in writing this book and give you clear direction as you read it with your children.

Negatives: None

Talking Points: I highly recommend that you use the "Let's Talk" section at the end of each story. It is important for us to engage our children in the Scripture and by asking questions you will see what their level of understanding is and where you can help them to grow. Use the rich language of Scripture to direct their hearts and minds to worship their Creator God who loves and cares for them. Model and teach them to pray prayers of adoration to their Savior, thanking  and worshiping Him for who He is.

Age Level: 3-8 years of age - While mainly geared toward preschoolers, your slightly older children will enjoy it as well.

I received a free copy of this book from Crossway Publishing in exchange for this review.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

David Sticker Book by Karen Williamson

Recommendation: **** (4-star)

This book tells the story of the early  life of David. It quite accurately reflects the biblical text of how he was anointed King, his conquest of Goliath, and his flight from King Saul. Throughout the book there are places where your child can place stickers that go with the illustrations in the book.

Positives: As I said the story line was pretty accurate and true to the Biblical text and very appropriate for its target age group. The stickers are a great way to engage your child in the book and add an element of fun. I really liked that at the reference to the biblical text the story was taken from was included at the end of the story.

Negatives: None

Talking Points: Help your child see beyond the character of David and talk about how God worked in David's life. Trace the providential hand of God from David's selection for king as a young boy, his belief in a great God and understanding that God should receive all the glory in his life. Talk about God's preservation  of David's life for many years as he ran from Saul. I think David would agree with Isaiah 55:8, David probably wouldn't have chosen God's path to being a king just as we would often like to avoid difficult circumstances, but God's sovereign plan is for our good and His glory. Show your child that the Bible is not a collection of great stories, but the story of our great and glorious God and Savior, it is exactly what He wants to communicate to us today.  2 Timothy 3:16-17, Is. 55:11, Is. 40:8, I Pet. 1:24-25.

Age Level: 3-7 years of age

I received a free copy of this book from Kregel Publishing in exchange for this review.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

God Gave Us Easter by Lisa Tawn Bergren

Recommendation: *** (3-stars)

I have thoroughly enjoyed the books in the "God Gave Us..." series and was anxious to receive this new book. Little Cub has questions about Easter and in this book Papa Bear is the one who is able to instruct her. Papa Bear explains how God always knew he was going to give us Easter and as they hike through the woods they talk about how out of death comes life because Jesus didn't stay in the tomb. They talk about how God had an even bigger plan than just sending Jesus. His plan was for us to be with him forever in heaven.

Positives: I love that Little Cub always find the answers to her questions from her parents! What an example of how our homes should be.

Negatives: There were a few things that I wish would have been a little different in this story. When Papa Bear is talking about the disobedience that came again after the flood it says "...[God] had to find a way to keep us connected, once and for all..." I don't like the word choice here because it makes it sound like God to readjust his plan. She did earlier state in the book that God knew all along He would give us Easter, but I think this could be confusing to young children. Secondly, Little Cub asks if God talks to Papa Bear and Papa Bear responds, "It's like he whispers in my heart." I wish the author would have made a mention that God speaks to us through the Bible. I think it would be a more concrete image for a child to understand than God "whispering to our hearts." Lastly, Papa Bear says that "God forgives us when we make bad choices." I wish the author would have used the word sin. We can make bad choices that aren't sinful and children can easily understand the idea of sin and wrongdoing.

Talking Points: While this story does a great job of teaching some of the ideas of Easter, it does not tell the Easter story. I think it would make a great supplement to reading the gospel accounts of Jesus' death and resurrection, but it falls short of explaining the need for Christ to die and shed his blood. What a great opportunity to grab your Bible and share the gospel story with your kids once again! Matthew 26-28, Mark 14-16, Luke 22-24, John 18-20, 2 Cor. 5:15-21

Age Level: 3-6 years of age

I received this book for free from Waterbrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Al Capone Shines My Shoes by Gennifer Choldenko

Recommendation: **** (4-stars)

When I found this sequel to "Al Capone Does My Shirts" at our library I was so excited to read it! In this book, the story of Moose Flanagan and his family living on Alcatraz continues. Moose's sister Natalie is off to the Esther P. Marinelli school and life is going to be just great...but trouble just seems to find Moose. Trouble with Mr. Trixle (one of the guards), trouble with his friends and even trouble with the inmates on Alcatraz. There is no shortage of humor, surprises and adventure on Alcatraz!

Positives: I just love the story. It was funny and moving and so down to earth. Some of the problems these kids have are ordinary kid problems, but they are always compounded a bit by the fact that they live on Alcatraz. And some of their problems are unique to living on Alcatraz which lends itself to some pretty humorous situations.

Negatives: None

Talking Points: A lot of the tension in this book revolves around Moose's friendships. For the most part Moose truly wants to be friends with everyone. However in trying to please everyone he finds that no one is happy with him. Moose learns that it true friends, like he has on the island, will accept him for who he is and he doesn't have to pretend to agree with everyone and like everything they do. As this books target audience is pre-teens this is a relevant topic to approach with them. What does the Bible say about friendship? Is it possible to be friends with those who don't share my beliefs or moral values? What if I don't have any friends? It is important to always direct their hearts and minds back to the gospel and the truths of Scripture. Romans 12:18 tells us to strive to live in peace with all people. While this doesn't mean that we abandon our beliefs, we can strive toward good relationships with unbelievers, after all, isn't our purpose here on earth to share the gospel with unbelievers? If we never allow our kids to be around unbelievers, how can they share the gospel? Help your child develop gospel-oriented relationships with other believers as well. Prayerfully they can find friends who are willing to confront them on their sin (Prov. 27:6a). An excellent resource on friendship can be found in I Samuel as well. Help them to study the friendship of David and Jonathan. Help guide your child as they learn to develop relationships and always keep the gospel at the forefront of your guidance.

Age Level: 10 years of age and up

Monday, January 21, 2013

Bible Stories That End With A Hug by Stephen Elkins

Recommendation: * (1-star)

This book is a collection of short stories that are taken from the Bible. Each story includes a verse of Scripture, a couple of questions and answers pertaining to the story and a "hug time" at the end.

Positives: The stories are short and can be used for very young children. The illustrations are well done. I liked that the Scripture passages the story was taken from were included on the page.

Negatives: As most of our readers know, I am always a little leary of Bible Storybooks and unfortunately, this book did not change my mind. Overall, it was a disappointment. The most troubling aspect, was that there was no Bible story that told of Christ's death on the cross. There was a story about Jesus eating the Passover meal with his disciples and the next story was about Jesus' resurrection. No mention of the events surrounding the crucifixion or his death on the cross to bear the penalty for our sin.  How are kids to understand the gospel this way? I know there were a lot of stories that weren't included in this book, however I cannot think of any reason to exclude the story that changed the course of history. I also thought the stories focused too much on man and did not bring out the attributes of God enough. The "hug time" was very self-focused. While I am certainly not opposed to hugging my kids, I found this aspect of the book indulgent and unnecessary. There were also a few stories that I disagreed with what they were teaching. The story on baptism teaches that baptism is saying "I am sorry for my sins." That sounds more like repentance, baptism is a step of obedience that tells others publicly that you are a new creation, living for Christ. In another story it teaches that "To Jesus, 'sin' and 'sickness' mean the same thing." I don't care how young your child is, they need to understand the utter sinfulness of their sin. They can understand that when they sin it is a choice they make. We do not choose a sickness, but we do choose to sin. Sin offends a holy God and it is the reason Christ had to die. It is very different to Jesus than sickness.

Talking Points: You can pick and choose the stories you want to read from this book, and some of them are fine. I do like some of the questions the author asks. I would read the story from the Bible and then use the questions in the book to promote discussion. Be discerning though as sometimes the questions don't focus on the real truths found in the story. Overall, keep reinforcing in your child that the Bible stories teach us about God's character and tell us about who He is. Help your child see the gospel story that is woven through every story.  And feel free to give them a hug!

Age Level: 2-5 years of age

I received a free copy of this book from Tyndale Publishing for this review.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Children's Bible Reading Plan


With a new year upon us (yes, I realize January is almost over, but let's not get technical!) I was looking for a new Bible reading plan for our family.  While we read lots of books, we also emphasize the importance of time spent daily in the Word of God.  Is there a better book for your child to be reading?! We have done lots of different things in the past, but I was recently introduced to a fabulous resource and wanted to share it with you all.  Below you will find a link to a blog post that explains how this Bible Reading Plan works, followed by downloadable PDF files for 10 different books of the Bible. There are different formats you can follow and it is not overbearing in any way.  These will be perfect for our 7 year old and can certainly be adapted for younger children and can be used for family Bible reading as well. Click HERE to find the blog post.

I hope this is a helpful resource to you as you continually  train up your child to love the Lord their God with all their heart, soul, mind and strength!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Theodore Boone: The Accused by John Grisham

Recommendation: *** (3-stars)

In the latest installment of the new kid series by John Grisham, Theo finds himself on the other side of the law. Stolen property is found in Theo's possession, but he claims he is innocent. Nonetheless an investigation ensues and the evidence is quickly stacking up against young Theo. Even his lawyer parents are having a difficult time helping him. Will Theo be able to prove his innocence? To what lengths will he have to go to do so? Is he willing to break rules to do it?

Positives: I really like Theo as a character. As a kid he struggles through issues of honesty, integrity and dealing with friends. Though not a "biblical" role model, I appreciate the tone the author approaches these areas with.

Negatives: Theo's uncle Ike isn't the greatest influence on his life. He is usually the reason Theo goes against his conscience and does something that he believes to be wrong.

Talking Points: Theo has a reputation of being a kid of integrity. He is known for his work ethic and his honesty in dealing with friends, teachers and others. Talk to your kids about their reputation. What do their friends and teachers think of them and how does it reflect Christ to them? The Bible talks about our reputation as well. Talk about these verses with your child - Prov. 10:9, Prov. 11:3, Prov. 19:1. I think one of the best things this story illustrates about Theo's integrity was that those who knew him did not believe the charges against him. I Timothy 3 tells us what the qualifications for church leadership are (and these are the character qualities I want my kids to work on now). Several times it is mentioned that they are to be above reproach and to have a good reputation. We call it being a "Teflon person." When you walk in integrity, accusations of wrong doing don't stick. Help teach your child the importance of a "good reputation" for the glory of God (Matt. 5:16).

Age Level: 8 years of age and up


Monday, January 7, 2013

When Mother Was Eleven-Foot Four by Jerry Camery-Hoggatt

Recommendation: **** (4-star)

This short story is the endearing memories of a young boy and how his mother always made Christmas so special. In spite of being only four-foot-eleven, his mother was tall on the inside, where it mattered, and she was always at her tallest during Christmas. With 8 children to care for (including her brothers 3 children), mother took great pains to make sure Christmas was a special time, with a big, beautiful tree and plenty of presents to go around. Then one year everything changed. There wasn't money for a Christmas tree or presents and while they made due, mother said she never felt so small as that year. Along the way, her children learn a valuable lesson - a lesson she has taught them well, how to be a giver of gifts.

Positives: A fun and wonderful story to enjoy together with your kids during the Christmas season. The illustrations are beautiful and it captures the magical feel of Christmas that kids enjoy and remember.

Negatives: None

Talking Points: Teaching our kids to be givers can be difficult! And the way in which we celebrate Christmas can either help or hinder them in this area. Talk about how Jesus modeled giving and serving for us. Here are some Scriptures that can be helpful! Phil. 2:1-8, Matt. 20:25-28, John 13:1-15. What an example! It goes against every part of our natural being to forget about ourselves and prefer others. We must teach our kids (and ourselves!) to ask for the help of the Holy Spirit as they root out these areas of pride and selfishness and learn to walk by the Spirit and be humble servants of Christ as they freely give to others.

Age Level: 4-8 years of age

Friday, January 4, 2013

God Gave Us Christmas by Lisa Tawn Bergren

Recommendation: **** (4-star)

Little Cub is full of questions about Christmas! She and Mama Bear set out on an adventure to see God and discover how God gave Christmas to us. As Little Cub sees the power of God, she learns that Jesus is the best present of all and that Jesus would have come even if she was the only one who needed Him.

Positives: The "God Gave Us" series is so simply and beautifully written. I have loved each and every story and use them often with children. This story once again shows us a great bond between Little Bear and Mama Bear and how Mama Bear so patiently teaches her young Cub about God and the world around her. I love that the idea of Santa is addressed in this book. Santa is dealt with honestly, as a fictional character, but we see that God is far greater than Santa!

Negatives: None

Talking Points: There were so many Scriptures that came to mind as I was reading this book! Mama Bear uses creation to teach Little Bear about God. Continue to show your children the wonders of creation and talk about how they reflect an awesome Creator! (Ps. 19:1, Rom. 1:18-19). Mama Bear spoke of our need for Jesus to come in the flesh because God knew we needed someone we could see and touch and smell (John 1:1-14, 1 John 1:1-3). I loved the imagery the author used of a flower blooming in the winter and how Jesus is like that flower - surprising, unexpected. Talk with your child about how Jesus' birth is surprising. How could an all-powerful King become a helpless baby? How could the sins of many be paid for by the death of a sinless one? Lastly, I would talk about the idea expressed in the book that Jesus came for all of us and came for each of us. We are all sinners (Mean 'ol Maggie Moose and grumpy 'ol Frankie Fox) in need of a Savior. Yet even if we were the only sinner, Jesus would have come on Christmas, to rescue us (1 Tim. 1:15, Romans 6:10, Heb. 9:11-12).

Age Level: 2-7 years of age

I received this book for free from Waterbrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.